Famous Puppet Death Scenes by Olde Trout Puppet Workshop

Thursday Theatre Review - Famous Puppet Death Scenes

When you hear "puppet show", what do you think of? I'm pretty confident in saying that it's likely not what is offered up by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop's show Famous Puppet Death Scenes.

Instead of a playful children's piece, this depicts scenes of puppet death. Many puppet deaths. 22 to be exact. Some funny, some gruesome, some funny AND gruesome, and some that are just utterly beautiful. But here's my promise to you - when you go to this show you will laugh. In fact, you'll be laughing in the face of death, making it an act of bravery, right?

I loved this show. So did Mr. B, my show-partner for this one. We were both completely blown away. Mr. B commented that he thought perhaps without a background in theatre one would get as much out of it as we did. I argue this point. While he was watching he was drawing parallels between what was on stage and works from people like August Strindberg. I on the other hand, am apparently a bad theatre graduate, because I really didn't make the same connections as him. I got that there was jabbing at overly dramatic theatre pieces, but I didn't identify with any specific playwrights or theorists. And, honestly, I'm pretty sure you don't have to have seen overly dramatic theatre to get the satire of this piece.

Interestingly, Mr. B also drew parallels to Sesame Street - parallels that I wouldn't have found, I mean, other than the use of puppets. But he said he found himself watching it the way he used to watch Sesame Street - always anticipating, and having a feeling of discovery once he figured out what (other than death) a particular vignette was about.

As for me, honestly, this was one of those pieces that I like so much it's overwhelming and makes it hard to pick out the specific details. I'm just left with this overwhelming feeling of 'that was wonderful'. That said, I'll try to pick out some details for you.

The puppets themselves were absolutely beautiful - each one was a piece of art. The puppeteers were not afraid to let themselves be seen, the mouths didn't move (mostly), so at no point did I feel like I was supposed to forget that the puppets weren't real people. The design of the show was fantastic, amazing use of lights and sound. And, last, but not least, the puppeteers themselves (Peter Balkwill, Mitchell Craib, Pityu Kenderes and Judd Palmer) were also a treat on stage. They acted, not only through their puppets, but also as the occasional human character using their own bodies, and did both with great skill.

The bottom line is that I can't recommend this one enough. Famous Puppet Death Scenes is a combination of amazing artistry, amazing performance, and great big belly laughs. What more can you ask for?

- Famous Puppet Death Scenes is playing at the Young Centre for the Arts (Distillery District) until October 16, 2008
- Monday to Saturday performances at 8pm, Saturday matinee at 2pm (no shows on Sunday)
- Tickets are $30 ($20 for students) and are available from the box office at 416-866-8666, or online
- Rush tickets are also available for this show, $20 for adults, and $5 for people 21 and under (but remember, with rush tickets you'll be out of luck if the show gets sold out ahead of time)

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